Scotland council elections 2022: Boris Johnson gets a clear message on difficult but not disastrous day for Scottish Conservatives – Murdo Fraser MSP

The obituaries of the Scottish Conservative Party were being written long before a single vote was cast in this election.

Boris Johnson votes in the council elections in London (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The party would see significant losses across the country, it was predicted, losing both council seats and vote share, and crucially would be heavily beaten into third place by a resurgent Scottish Labour Party.

It certainly wasn’t a propitious backdrop to be fighting a local election, traditionally used by voters to deliver a verdict on the government in office.

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A Prime Minister with a huge popularity problem in Scotland, even before the Partygate scandal, now faced accusations he had broken the laws he himself had made – a gift to our opponents.

It was an issue which cut through with the public. Loyal Conservative voters made it clear they wouldn’t be going to the polls this time in protest at Boris Johnson’s behaviour, seeing the local elections as the perfect opportunity to send a message to 10 Downing Street.

Even without that issue, it was always going to be a challenge to defend seats won in Scottish Conservatives’ best-ever local election result in 2017. With public concerns over the cost of living, it proved hard to motivate those who lent us their votes in 2017 to do so again.

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All that said, this was a difficult day for the party, not a disastrous one. In parts of the country we made advances – winning seats in Aberdeenshire, Moray and North Ayrshire, whilst holding our own in the Highlands.

Elsewhere, and particularly across the Central Belt, the picture was not so rosy, with losses to Labour, the Liberal Democrats and independents, although there was little sign of an SNP surge.

Our vote share is below that of Scottish Labour, but not dramatically so. It would be fair to expect many of those who sat on their hands in this election to return to the fold in a Westminster or Scottish parliamentary election where the stakes are higher.

However, that does not take away from the pain of hardworking local councillors, many of whom had served their communities faithfully for years, losing their seats because of the behaviour of the Prime Minister. That is a message that needs to be heard loud and clear in Westminster.

Murdo Fraser is Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife

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